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Selecting the Perfect Multi-Day Rafting Trip

So, you want to take a rafting trip? Choosing the perfect trip should be a breeze, right?

You hop on our website, start browsing through trip details, and realize something pretty quickly. There is a LOT of information to consider when choosing the perfect rafting trip! Questions like “What will I do and see on this trip?”, “What time of year is best for rafting?”, and “Are trips family friendly?” are all swirling around in your head with each page click.

You want to make a decision soon. How do you know which trip is the perfect fit?

With the beginning of our rafting season just around the corner, we are ecstatic to answer any questions about river trips. We understand that it can be a little overwhelming to navigate all bits of trip information and logistics. All of your questions are completely understandable, and it’s likely that someone else (probably me) has asked it before.

Families Love River Trips!
Families Love River Trips!

As the new Office Manager, even I find it difficult to keep track of the nitty-gritty details. To help you (and admittedly, myself), I have gone ahead and created a comprehensive guide to the trips we offer! Interested in learning more about what each trip entails? Check out the guide below!

Rogue River

The Rogue River, one of the original eight Wild and Scenic Rivers, offers jaw-dropping views of wild scenery and volcanic geology. Taking off about three hours from Crater Lake National Park and ending about 30 miles from the Pacific Ocean, this trip is great for anyone who is interested in taking a road trip before or after the river.

Average temperatures on the Rogue are hotter in July and August at around 90 degrees. While this may seem hot for physical activity, there will be places to cool down in the river along the way! If you’re interested in joining on a “cooler” trip, the bookends of our season see temperatures closer to the mid-80s. Water temperatures are warm in the 60s. We don’t see much rain on the Rogue, but we always recommend bringing rain jackets just in case!

Camping along the Wild Rogue River
Camping along the Wild Rogue River

For families with kids ages 7+, the Rogue is an excellent trip to embark on! An upstream dam allows for a more consistent and predictable flow. Navigating Class II/III rapids, guests on the Rogue river can comfortably balance relaxation and adventure. Want to challenge yourself a little more? Use our duckies–inflatable kayaks–for an independent thrill while still under the careful watch of our guides!

Fun fact: Any animal lovers in your group? The Rogue River is a great place to look for animals such as osprey, river otters, and even bears. Wildlife enthusiasts can scout the river bank or hiking trails for any four-legged (or two-winged!) creatures.

Pro-tip: This is a great river to test out different boats styles! Make sure to note on your registration form the approximate percent of time you’d like to spend on each boat.

Logistic-tip: Have your car shuttled to the take-out point so you can take a road trip along the Oregon coast.

Middle Fork of the Salmon River

With hiking trails, hot springs, and historic landmarks to explore, our Middle Fork trips are great for families and adventurous individuals alike!

Also one of the first original Wild and Scenic Rivers listed in 1968, the Middle Fork of the Salmon flows through the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. On Class III+ rapids, rafters will be enamored of waterfalls, the steep walls of Impassable Canyon, and possible stops at relaxing hot springs.

Enjoying Hot Springs on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River
Enjoying Hot Springs on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River

Temperatures along the Middle Fork range throughout the season. Guests on trips in June and late August experience cooler temperatures in the mid-70s to mid-80s. July is usually the hottest month with temperatures that can reach 90+ degrees. Water temperatures can range from the mid-40s in June to the upper 50s in August. We see more precipitation from May to June with some rainfall occurring in July.

Rafting Idaho's Middle Fork of the Salmon River
Rafting Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon River

When it comes to bringing kiddos, we highly recommend booking trips that are scheduled for later in the season. Unlike the Rogue, the character of the river changes throughout the year based on snowpack and precipitation. Flows are highest during the early season making trips at these times more suitable for adventurous adults or late teens. In August, the river mellows slightly making it a fun ride for families without being too intimidating for younger guests.

Fun-fact: Got any history or anthropology buffs in the family? The Middle Fork of the Salmon offers views of pictographs and homestead houses that can be (responsibly!) explored when off-water.

Pro-tip: Stanley isn’t just where we launch our boats…it’s actually a wonderful place for a wild-west vacation! We recommend getting to Stanley early so you can check out the nearby Sawtooth Mountains.

Logistics tip: Plan to arrive the night before your departure date! Our pre-trip meeting for the Middle Fork of the Salmon takes place at 8:00PM the night before your trip.

Owyhee River

Interested in high desert ecosystems, incredible birding, and Class II and III rapids? This sounds like the trip for you! Known as the “Grand Canyon of Oregon,” the Owyhee replaces the hustle and bustle of civilization with a remote wilderness feel.

With a flow controlled by snowpack, the Owyhee is often too high or too low most of the year. For this reason, Owyhee trips are only offered in the spring.

The Owyhee Canyonlands have unpredictable weather patterns year-round. Temperatures can vary from the 30s to the 70s all in one day! We recommend packing for any weather condition by bringing layerable, quick-dry clothing and rain gear. Water temperatures are chilly, to say the least, at 40 to 50 degrees so wear a wetsuit or drysuit!

Hike Out Camp on the Owyhee River
Hike Out Camp on the Owyhee River

While we can accommodate a 7+ year old on the Owyhee, the timing of our trips conflicts with school schedules. Weather is also less predictable which means that kids may have a harder time adjusting to temperature fluctuations. The Rogue is usually a better fit for young children since temperatures are consistently warmer in the summer. Still, the choice is up to you!

Fun fact: With over 100 species of bird, the Owyhee Canyonland is a wonderful place for amateur and seasoned birders! It has one of the highest concentrations of raptors (specifically hawks, eagles, and falcons) in the West, and many birds use the open real estate of volcanic ledges to build their nests. Bring a pair of binoculars if you want to take a “peep” at these canyon dwellers.

Pro-tip: The weather can be very inconsistent. Pack layers so you are comfortable if weather conditions are both cold and hot in one day (which happens often)!

Logistic tip: Pay attention to time zones for this trip! Most of Oregon is on Pacific Time (PST) while our meeting spot in Rome is one hour ahead on Mountain Time (MST). It can get kind of confusing, so we use PST to stay consistent with the rest of Oregon!

Illinois River

With its unmistakable blue-green waters and uncrowded boat launches, the Illinois River is a pristine wilderness wonder. Running through the Kalmiopsis Wilderness, this river offers challenging Class IV rapids and one Class V (Greenwall rapid) with views of deep canyons and a variety of wildlife.

The Illinois River flow is controlled by a combination of snowpack and precipitation. Though flows are more reliable in spring, any weather pattern can drastically change conditions leading to erratic and unpredictable flows. When conditions are good, you can expect a once-in-a-lifetime experience in an untouched wilderness.

The Illinois River below Klondike Creek
The Illinois River below Klondike Creek

With water temperatures in the 40s, wetsuits are mandatory for this trip. If you do not have your own wetsuit, no problem! We have plenty of extra wetsuits on hand we can provide if you let us know in advance. Since these trips only occur in the spring, highs are usually in the 60s with lows in the 40s. Two key words for packing on this trip are “warm” and “dry.” Though it doesn’t rain all the time, precipitation is common, so be prepared to see some overcast skies.

Bringing kids on this trip is difficult. With a combination of cold river water and cloudy skies (plus the challenging rapids), this trip is not appropriate for kids ages 7-12. Even late teens may not enjoy this trip as much as the Middle Fork of the Salmon or the Rogue River.

Fun fact: No major hatchery operations have been implemented in the Illinois River, and the river basin acts as a refuge for wild salmon and steelhead. Any hatchery-raised salmon that stray their way into the river are unable to reach the upper basin to reproduce. This means that the fish native to the Illinois make up one of the most genetically intact fish populations in the Pacific Northwest.

Pro-tip: Be prepared for game-time decisions! If waters are too high or low for rafting, we will transfer our trip to the Rogue River.

Logistic tip: Plan to arrive in Grants Pass the night before your trip begins! The Illinois pre-trip meeting will take place at 7:00PM in the Holiday Inn Express Lobby the night before the trip.

Chetco River

Want to spend your vacation days hiking 10 miles, navigating advanced rapids, and being physically challenged in miserable weather conditions? For the experienced river rafters who crave an expedition that’s a little more off-the-beaten path, the Upper Chetco trip begins with a ten mile hike through rugged Kalmiopsis Wilderness. On the river, Class IV rapids can only be navigated in an inflatable kayak.

Want to spend your vacation days hiking 10 miles, navigating advanced rapids, and being physically challenged in miserable weather conditions? For the experienced river rafters who crave an expedition that’s a little more off-the-beaten path, the Upper Chetco trip begins with a ten mile hike through rugged Kalmiopsis Wilderness. On the river, Class IV rapids can only be navigated in an inflatable kayak.

Inflatable Kayaks on the Chetco River
Inflatable Kayaks on the Chetco River

With only one trip offered in June, weather in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness can fluctuate significantly. From warm, sunny days in the 90s to cold, rainy days in the 40s, you can never predict the weather. Water temperatures are also quite chilly in the 40s. Because of how close the canyon is to the Oregon coast, weather systems can move in rapidly and change conditions. While we have been fortunate with weather in the past, we have also experienced some pretty miserable weather conditions. We’re just being honest! If you enjoy surprise weather conditions in a place that is untouched by civilization, this could definitely be the trip for you!

As far as kids go, we have one answer. No. This trip is for experienced adventurers who can paddle an inflatable kayak and navigate rapids independently. With unpredictable weather conditions, a kid would NOT be comfortable on this trip.

Fun-fact: The color and clarity of the Chetco is what really sets it apart from other rivers. In fact, water quality played a major role in designating the Chetco as a Wild and Scenic river. This river is also a botanist’s wonderland! With serpentine rocks and soils, most plants have a difficult time growing along the Chetco. Still, as Ian Malcom might put it, “life finds a way.” There are many rare plants to identify on this trip, so pack a field journal to take notes!

Pro-tip: The Chetco is not the place to break-in brand new hiking boots. Pack gear that you have used before. Also, we recommend working out before your trip! It may sound silly, but trust us…even our guides hit the gym before taking the dreaded Chetco hike.

Logistic tip: Plan to arrive in Grants Pass the night before your trip! The Chetco pre-trip meeting will take place at 7:00PM in the Holiday Inn Express Lobby the night before the trip.

Selecting the best river rafting trip can come with a lot of advanced planning, research, link clicking, and video watching. We know there are a lot of details to sort through, so we want to help ease the stress! This guide condenses our trip details so that most of your answers can be found in just a couple of scrolls. Still, if you enjoy watching the videos and reading the fine print, be our guest!

Have any other questions you’d like to ask? We are always happy to chat via email or phone call! In all honesty, I’ll probably use this blog as a reference but I’ll always appreciate the practice!

Originally Published: | Updated on | Categorized under: River Descriptions

Post Author

Madison Montgomery

With a background in ecology and conservation, Maddy has spent the last several years working in various fieldwork roles across the US. Though she is an Indiana native, she is thrilled to be living in the Pacific Northwest where she can hike, camp, and spend time exploring the outdoors with her dog, Kelly.